Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Another yellow-legged Herring Gull

A short visit to the lake at Christianshavn produced a good number of gulls - mostly Herring and Black-headed but also some Common and Great Black-backed Gulls. A few were colour-ringed: one Herring had a blue ring "V457"; another Herring was carrying a yellow ring "VN47"; a Common Gull sported a red ring "C03" and four Black-headed Gulls had white rings "UHX", "291", "ULL" and "VYW". I believe that all of these have been ringed in the Copenhagen area but I will report them and see what comes back.. they may have been to some interesting places in between...

In the middle of the lake was another yellow-legged Herring Gull (see photo below). I am not sure where these yellow-legged Herrings come from but after seeing none for two years, I have now seen two in two days! This is definitely a different bird to yesterday's - note lack of dark mark on the upper mandible.

Photo: yellow-legged Herring Gull with the usual pink-legged argentatus Herring Gulls.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Yellow-legged Herring Gull

After the exploits of yesterday I stayed closer to home today with a short walk up to Langelinie to look for gulls. Quite a few larger gulls around now (I guess more have come in due to the recent cold snap), mostly argentatus Herring Gulls. The highlight was this adult/near-adult yellow-legged Herring Gull. Quite a striking bird but definitely NOT a Yellow-legged Gull (michahellis) or Caspian Gull (cachinanns) given the structure and pattern of the wing tip (see third photo). Yellow-legged Gull (michahellis) should show a flatter head shape, peaking behind the eye, more attenuated rear, darker mantle and a 'mirror' on P10 (primary 10). Caspian (cachinnans) would show a smaller, darker eye, longer, thinner legs and a different pattern to the wing-tips (usually with an unbroken dark mark on P5).

So the only conclusion is that this is one of the small percentage of argentatus Herring Gulls that show yellow legs. A potential pitfall for the unwary!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Swedish Eagles

With the promise of eagles I headed deep into Sweden today to meet up with Phil at Båstad. We started at Rönnen at dawn to look for the Gyrfalcon that is marauding the area for its 5th winter in a row. En route we were treated to a Goshawk that flew across the road in front of us and then sat in a tree in the half-light. Although seeing any markings was a challenge at this hour, we could make out a strikingly flared supercilium, rounded tail and 'necky' silhouette which, combined with its flight action, meant we could be confident with the id. Arriving at the Gyr site in a steady drizzle and with visibility like looking through a dirty window with a ten quid pair of binoculars, we struggled to find much of note barring a Peregrine and 3 White-tailed Eagles perched on rocks. Amazingly (for Sweden), we were joined by another birder - Mikael Olofsson.

After a couple of hours, and as the weather steadily improved, we checked out Farhult where we saw possibly the same, or another, Goshawk that came in from the north being mobbed by Hooded Crows before settling on a post overlooking a large reedbed. After scanning the sea and spying a few Slavonian Grebes, a few Scaup in amongst the Tufted Ducks, a couple of Smew and some Velvet Scoter, we headed inland to look for Golden Eagles with Mikael providing us with some very helpful local knowledge of the tracks and minor roads in the area plus some very good company. A Rough-legged Buzzard was a good start and it wasn't long before we saw our first of 3 more White-tailed Eagles.. then, just as we stopped to check out another possible White-tailed Eagle, an immature Golden Eagle came low from the east and settled in a small copse. Wow! Yet another White-tailed Eagle flew low overhead and a Red Kite drifted lazily past - what a site! By now the weather was sunny and mostly clear but the temperature had dropped and an icy wind was blowing in from the west.

We moved on to Sandön where we saw another Slavonian Grebe and more Smew, then another check of Rönnen produced the same Peregrine Falcon. Leaving Mikael to collect his bike, Phil and I moved up to Torekov, a great site and renowned for Shag (pretty rare in Scandinavia) and Purple Sandpiper. We bagged two of the former and 9 of the latter - not a bad end to a very rewarding day... thanks to Phil for the hospitality and for driving the tank, I mean Volvo, all day and to Mikael for sharing his knowledge and humour.

Photos: immature White-tailed Eagle

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Owls and Harriers

The first sunny day for some time lured me out to the area near the airport to look for Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers. The regular Rough-legged Buzzard was hunting around the runway, seemingly unbothered by the planes regularly taking off and landing.. On arrival at the area of rough ground near the DSB (Danish train operator) maintenance terminal, I immediately saw two 'ringtail' Hen Harriers and, shortly afterwards, at least 5 Short-eared Owls were flushed by one of the harriers as it made a low pass over a patch of long grass - brilliant! I spent an hour in the area and counted another Hen Harrier, this time a young male, and 2 more Short-eared Owls (which could easily have been part of the original group of 5).

A brief look on the sea revealed a few Goldeneye, 2 Wigeon, 8 Whooper Swans and a few Cormorants. By this time my feet felt like blocks of ice so I cycled home via the grass fields at Kastrup to check the gulls. Nothing unusual there so back home with a cup of tea by 1500..

Note how the wing-shape of the Hen Harrier changes in the series of photos below - from a slender, long-looking wing in the top photo to a broad, bulging shape (almost Honey Buzzard-like) on the photo below - all in the space of a few seconds. This goes to show how brief glances or short views can lead to different assessments of wing shape and breadth, important criteria in some harrier species.

Photo: one of the Hen Harriers that was hunting by the DSB maintenance terminal near Copenhagen airport; and a Short-eared Owl shortly after being flushed by the Harrier

Thursday, 24 December 2009


A walk out today to Dyrehaven (the old royal hunting ground north of Copenhagen) with the in-laws produced the largest flock of Brambling I have ever seen.. there were at least 1,000 present by the entrance to the wood at Skodsborg and there were probably more as I did not see the whole flock. The scene reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds with the ground crawling with birds and the air filled with a calling mass.. great stuff. Supporting cast was a bunch of calling and very active Nuthatches, a few Common Buzzards and the odd Jay. Still no Waxwings.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


For the next week and a half I will be at the "COP15" UN negotiations on climate change here in Copenhagen, working with legislators from the major economies. You can follow progress on my COP15 blog. I am hoping to steal a few hours to take a few foreign friends birding in the Copenhagen area - if I can, I will report what we see here. Otherwise, normal service will be resumed after 18 December...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A Guide to the Birds of Copenhagen

Over the last few weeks I have been working with the Copenhagen group of DOF (Dansk Ornitologisk Forening) to put together a Guide to the Birds of Copenhagen. The focus is on those species that are likely to be of most interest, particularly to birders from the UK. The guide includes information about Black Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Thrush Nightingale and Icterine Warbler to name a few. It includes maps, directions (by public transport and by car) and any other relevant information. If you find yourself in Copenhagen with a few hours or days to spare and want to do a bit of birding, check it out....

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ringing report

The super-speedy Copenhagen Museum has already responded about the Herring Gull with the metal ring (see last post). It was ringed as a first-winter bird (second calendar year) on 2 January 2007. This means it was born in 2006 and so is in its fourth winter. Where was it ringed...? Copenhagen city centre. According to a quick calculation on Google Maps, I saw the bird approximately 1 mile from its original ringing location!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Gulling (again)

Much colder today (around 3 degs) with a northerly wind. Needed that extra layer.. The gulls were hungry and, tempted by a few bits of stale bread out of the fridge, quite a few Black-headed and Herring Gulls came in to feed. I counted 9 different colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls (see last photo) and one Herring Gull with a metal ring came close enough to read the number. All were ringed in Denmark but, hopefully, there will be some interesting data when I hear back from the ringers. Here are a few photos... Any ideas for a caption for the first?

Photos: Herring Gull and Hooded Crow; same Herring Gull in a victorious cry after seeing off said Crow; sad-looking Herring Gull; Herring Gull with metal ring; and one of the colour-ringed Black-headed Gulls.